With majority of refugees from Marawi women and children, Senator Sonny Angara today called for the implementation of a government rule requiring the mandatory distribution of "women's dignity kits" in evacuation centers.
The vice chair of the Senate finance committee said Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order (AO) 2016-05 has enumerated the Minimum Initial Service Package, or MISP, that shall be given to women during emergencies and disasters.
Included in the package is a "dignity kit" containing 22 items of women's personal care, including, bath soap, laundry soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, panties, brassiere, sanitary napkins, shampoo, face towel, bath towel, slippers, tissue roll, cotton balls.
Under the AO 2016-15, the kit includes a malong, the unisex wrap-around colorful cloth that is traditional wear in Muslim communities.
The order, issued by then Health Secretary Janette Garin on February 2016, implements provisions in Republic Act (RA) 9170, or the Magna Carta for Women, and in RA 10354, or the Responsible and Reproductive Health Law, which require the provision of health services to women during emergencies.
RA 10354, which was authored by Angara when he was a congressman, requires that emergency MISPs must include the distribution of maternal, neonatal and reproductive health care kits.
Tasked to stock and distribute women dignity kits is DOH's Emergency Management Bureau.
Angara issued the call after a United Nations agency pegged at 18,000 the number of women gravely affected by the ongoing armed skirmishes in the capital of Lanao del Sur.
A count by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) puts at 11,500 the number of pregnant women on top of "over 7,000" mothers who have recently given birth."
This, the senator said, should prompt the government to "customize assistance" for the "most vulnerable "of the displaced, the "bata and the buntis."
"Even during normal times, nursing mothers, babies, pregnant women must have the best of care. In wartime, their plight is exacerbated when they're uprooted from their homes. The worse the situation is, the more responsive the government's help must become," Angara stressed.
He said disaster aid must adopt a "women and children first policy, and this is best manifested through the distribution of women and baby kits.
"Being born in evacuation centers sets back a child's development during the crucial first 1,000 days," the lawmaker said.
The experience of women and children of Marawi, and in other areas hit by emergencies, man-made or natural, in this disaster-prone country, should be an input in the "First 1,000 Days Program Bill" being hammered out by the Senate.
Authored by Angara, the bill mandates programs for pregnant mothers, improved breastfeeding practices, complementary feeding practices, as well as protection against undernutrition and disease for children.
Source: Senate of the Philippines